Texas weather, Austin has become a major hub for development houses that produce MMOs and casual/social online titles. BioWare, NCSoft, Blizzard, SOE, heck, even Zynga; they've all got offices in Austin and collectively they're responsible for a sizable growth spurt in the city's already impressive technology sector. It makes sense, then, that GDC 2011's "Online" chapter should return to the Lone-Star State's capital city.
GDC has, historically, been a conference "for developers, by developers," meaning that it's probably not the sort of show Jimmy Halo and Ricky Killzone want to spend their tuition money on. However! If you're in the industry, or just really, really into game design, you just might find something worthwhile at one of GDCO's recently announced summits.
The Game Narrative Summit, for instance, returns for its 6th year of lectures and dissertations with Eidos Montreal's Mary De Marle giving a talk on "Building the Story-driven Experience of Deus Ex: Human Revolution," and Volition's Steve Jaros hosting a roundtable discussion of development mistakes and war-stories in "Sins of the Past." PopCap's Giordano Bruno Contestabile will be contributing his knowledge of pocket-sized, casual gaming to the Smartphone and Tablet Games Summit, and while the GDC Virtual Items Summit has been announced, no specific session details have been listed as of yet.
If extremely-inside-baseball discussions really are your bag, baby, then summit lectures will be open to GDCO attendees with "All Access" and "Summits & Tutorials" badges during the first two days of the conference's October 10-13 run at the Austin Convention Center.